Featured: Barry Cole Has Driven to the Moon in Sunbeams

Barry Cole Has Driven to the Moon in Sunbeams

Avatar By Amy Shore
March 19, 2014
10 comments

Photography by Amy Shore for Petrolicious

The moon. That fantastic rock that lights up our dark, night skies and orbits our planet in an elliptical path. At its furthest point from earth, the moon is precisely 252,088 miles away. Since moving to a village in Leicestershire named Kirby Muxloe, over 40 years ago, Barry Cole has travelled further than the distance to the moon in over 20 different Hillman Imps.

Barry’s first Imp, a Singer Chamois, rolled onto his drive in 1967, just four years after they arrived on UK roads. It housed a rear mounted, overhead cam, aluminium 875cc engine and was soon termed “The Poor Man’s Porsche”, Barry tells me.

“Our most enjoyable times with Imps was [sic] in the seventies,” Barry tells me as I ask him to recall a fond anecdote regarding the Imp. “We used to put the rear seats down and make up a large bed. Then at midnight we would carry our three infants from their beds and put them in the car. We would then drive to South Devon and the kids would wake as we arrived at the seaside – those were the days!”

The moon. That fantastic rock that lights up our dark, night skies and orbits our planet in an elliptical path. At its furthest point from earth, the moon is precisely 252,088 miles away. Since moving to a village in Leicestershire named Kirby Muxloe, over 40 years ago, Barry Cole has travelled further than the distance to the moon in over 20 different Hillman Imps.

Barry’s first Imp, a Singer Chamois, rolled onto his drive in 1967, just four years after they arrived on UK roads. It housed a rear mounted, overhead cam, aluminium 875cc engine and was soon termed “The Poor Man’s Porsche”, Barry tells me.

“Our most enjoyable times with Imps was [sic] in the seventies,” Barry tells me as I ask him to recall a fond anecdote regarding the Imp. “We used to put the rear seats down and make up a large bed. Then at midnight we would carry our three infants from their beds and put them in the car. We would then drive to South Devon and the kids would wake as we arrived at the seaside – those were the days!”

As I stood admiring the Imp, Barry jangled the set of little silver keys towards me and asked if I wanted to take it for a spin. After no hesitation, I hopped in. The recently reupholstered seats were comfortingly warm from the sun as I sat in the driver’s seat. I was impressed to see a number of near-extinct cassette tapes in the driver’s door compartment, free from the used parking meter tickets and chocolate wrappers that decorate my own door compartment.

Barry settled into the passenger seat next to me and told me that the Imp can reach eighty mph; however, he and his wife cruise at a pleasant sixty for the joy of it. With the doors cleanly clicked shut, I go to start the engine. Now, this is the part where I should admit that I temporarily marveled at how Barry and his family had managed to travel further than the distance to the moon in their Imps. As the engine repeatedly turned over for a number of attempts, life finally kicked into the car and we were off. My short drive gave me a glimpse of those days in the seventies, coasting along in the sun. All I can say about my journey is that I wished that the airstrip we were on was longer. I regretfully pulled up and began mentally counting out my piggybank, considering the cost of one of these truly delightful cars.

Join the Conversation
Related

10
Leave a Reply

9 Comment threads
1 Thread replies
2 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
9 Comment authors
dave wakamanVictor Van TressNigel McHughLee in the DaleTodd Cox Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
dave wakaman
dave wakaman

Very attractive photography Amy. Not easy to get the mood and interest in the shots with one car in one place.

Victor Van Tress
Victor Van Tress

I’ve always like these, yet when my Brother bought one, back in period, it didn’t make it home before the first breakdown. So even though 288k divided by 20 cars is only 14,400 each, it is an genuinely an admirable accomplishment. Personally I’ve gone 288k on 4 Honda CBX’s, but that’s another story.

Nigel McHugh
Nigel McHugh

I had a Hillman Imp here in Ireland back in the late 80’s. Metallic green, and the 875 OHC engine. Great fun to drive, but dont forget you had drum brakes all round. Those of us of a certin age will remember Rosemary Smith, as a very successful rally driver back in the 70’s with works prepared Imps.

Todd Cox
Todd Cox

What a beautiful little car. I wish my Sunbeam looked even 1/10 as good. I’m happy to see a Sunbeam surface in the Petrolicious library though as so few folks know about them. I love the ‘I have a Tiger in my tank’ which may be a nice double entendre as it was not only a slogan the Exxon/Esso company used as their mascot (and a Beachnuts songs) but the Tiger was also Sunbeam’s most notable entry in the American car market boasting a 289 Ford V-8 shoehorned under the hood and sold by Chrysler. I have a 1964 Sunbeam… Read more »

Matthew Parsons
Matthew Parsons

Excellent article! I owned a 1967 Hillman Imp II between 1986 and 1988 when I lived in Tasmania. Fun little car indeed. I fitted some airhorns but if you used them at night the headlights would dim! Fortunately it came with some spares so when the rubber ring connecting the rear drive shafts to each side of the gearbox failed, I learned how to replace them. Note the small cutout in the centre of the rear bumper? If you needed to start the engine with a flat battery, use the crank handle which inserts into this slot. A handy starter… Read more »

Brompty
Brompty

My Dad used to say ‘those cars run on elastic bands’, whenever we saw one as a child (in the Seventies). Can anyone shed any light on the transmission?
My only contact was literal: I ran into the back of one on my bike, aged about 12. Hit it side on and smashed my face into the boot.

Lee Proudfoot

I think your Dad might have been referring to the DAF 33/44/55/66 (eventually sold as a Volvo) which had a Van Doorne Continuously Variable Transmission system. Designed by Michelotti, the DAF has a similar shape to the Imp but is front engined. I owned a 44 briefly, but it got towed by the local council before I could collect it.

Willam Giltzow
Willam Giltzow

I ran a total of three Imps for 9 years in the states. Superb handling but fragile. Won my class autocrossing for the first time around 1973 in an Imp. The competition was early Civics and BMC Minis. The only car I have owned since that is a better corner carver for the country roads near me is my current Fiat X1/9.

Gonzalo

Really agree with Dustin, in fact i am knowing these car and is great.
gonzalo

Dustin Rittle
Dustin Rittle

This article right here is why i love waking up and checking out Petrolicious everyday. You just dont know what cars you are going to see on any given day. Its so cool to see the passions of the car hobby being placed in cars you just dont see that much or think nobody really would care about. I must admit I didnt know much about the Hillman Imp and all its variants. I used to think the Corvair was the poor man’s Porsche but I thnk this car might take the cake on that. Im really starting to appreciate… Read more »